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English Word Formation


Admission requirements

Introductory (BA-level) courses in (English) syntax and (English) phonology. If in doubt, consult the course tutor before registering.


The study of word formation deals with the ways in which new words are built on the bases of other words, e.g. clue-less-ness. In this course, we will examine a number of perspectives on word formation and apply these to English. What types of word formation processes are there in English? Are the rules that build words similar to the rules that build sentences? How are complex words stored in the brain? And how does word formation throw light on the way that languages change, and on how they are acquired from birth or in the classroom as a second language?

Course objectives

  • Students have gained insight into the different types of word formation in English.

  • Students are familiar with different theoretical approaches to word formation, and are able to apply these approaches in their own work

  • Students are familiar with current issues in the study of word formation.

  • For students in the MA-education programme, the knowledge gained in this course about word formation in English is foundational to instructing English in the Dutch classroom situation.


Visit MyTimetable.

Mode of instruction


Assessment Method

  • Oral presentation and classroom participation 30%; for the MA-Education, the presentation should be on transfer to the classroom

  • Final written essay 70%

To pass the course, a minimum of a 5.5 is required for the final essay

If the final mark for the essay is a 5.49 or lower, a resit essay will have to be submitted during the resit period, with a new topic.

Reading list

  • Plag, Ingo. (2018). Word Formation in English (2nd edition). Cambridge: Cambridge University Press. Note: the first (2003) edition of the coursebook is outdated, and is no longer suitable for this course. A selection of recent articles to be made available during the course via Brightspace.


Enrolment through uSis is mandatory.

When registering, students that are registered for the specialisation that this course belongs to, or the Research Master, take priority. The deadline for registration is August 15. All other students should contact the coordinator of studies.

General information about uSis is available in English.

Registration Studeren à la carte and Contractonderwijs

Registration via Studeren à la carte Registration via Contractonderwijs


M.B. Elenbaas E.D. Botma

Education Administration Office Reuvensplaats

E-mail address Education Administration Office Reuvensplaats:

Coordinator of Studies